Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We are doing something special

Winter is the time for...banking! This year, we have decided to establish leads for each category of farm task in order to increase our efficiency. Under our new structure, I am leading our business management and marketing activities. So, I've been working on various spreadsheets and documents as well as talking with banks about business banking. It may sound boring, but I am loving it!

Anyway, I was recently in a conversation with a friend of mine who is a financial advisor. I spent a long time explaining our business model. Although we are a for-profit business, our plan is to slowly sell our equipment to the Barrowtown Agricultural Development Society so that it can be shared with other new farmers. We also have to think about succession planning so that our land is shared, either through incorporating new business partners or by welcoming other farm businesses onto our site. After awhile she stopped me and said, "You guys are doing something really special!" I had to agree. Even if it is challenging to set up, at the end of the day it will be worth it.

I feel very lucky to be part of such an exciting and unique project. This year feels much less scary to me and I can't wait to get seeds in the ground again!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Like Kids in a Candy Store

Last week Hannah, Jamie and I sat down for a planning meeting over some pizzas and managed to plough through our 2010 seed order.

There's something about doing a seed order that gives me that kid in the candy store feeling (or perhaps more appropriately, the Amy loose in an online shoe store type feeling). Its January, and it seems like the possibilities are endless as to what we can do this year. Last year we literally did not get seed in the ground until after June 1st, and we still managed to pull off 10 weeks at the market and even more for our CSA customers. This year, the seeding has already started with the garlic in the ground last October, and the first of our transplants will be started sometime in February if all goes well.

With the addition of a hoop hoop house on the site we have expanded our crop selection quite significantly to include things that should grow well under plastic, as well as added many more crops that for us will be experimental. Our main train of thought(s) when going about deciding what to plant is first, thinking about what we, and our foodie friends, want to eat. Then we reflect on what have seen at the markets in abundance, and what (if anything) we thought was missing from farmers markets. Jamie then adds in fancy knowledge about industry trends and new and unusual crops, and then we also consider that we have several different marketing streams - CSA, farmers markets, and bulk sales to customers for pickling and other needs. Lastly we take into account our previous growing experience. What crops did well on the site, held up well at the market and were worthwhile, financially, to grow.

I wont go into the varietal details of what we have decided to grow this year, otherwise this blog post would be far too lengthy, but for those who are interested here is a run down of the crops we have decided upon for 2010.

Lettuce, greens, beans, swiss chard, summer squash, scallions, storage onions, cabbage, carrots, peas, cauliflower, potatoes, beets, broccoli, kale, cucumbers for slicing and pickling, corn (eating, popping and decorative!), some lovely oriental vegetables like choi and daikon, spinach, winter squashes, pumpkins (this time ones that are good for eating and carving), brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes

and for the new stuff

eggplants (we only managed to grow a few last year), garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, cape gooseberries, hot and sweet peppers, fennel, parsnips, celery, okra, collard greens, watermelons! cantaloupes! honeydews! turnips and leeks.

We are also doing cut flowers which are great at the market, but also for the bees and several varieties of herbs.

The list is long...and somewhat daunting. But this year already seems so much less scary than our first year and I am pretty confident that we will be able to pull it off. The beauty of starting off is that everything is one big experiment, so if we screw up somehow, we can just chalk it up to a learning experience and do differently next time round.

The pic is of Hannah diligently taking notes which no doubt helped us in our planning for this year. (Photo by Dave P.)